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Here are what I modestly and humbly refer to as “Grayson’s Laws of Legislating”: (1) Vote for what you’re in favor of. (2) Vote for what you can live with, if you must do that to get what you need. What we’ve been seeing in the House of Representatives lately have been massive and pervasive violations of Grayson’s Laws of Legislating. Instead of “I’ll vote for X because it’s right,” or “You don’t like X and I don’t like Y, but I’ll vote for X and Y if you vote for X and Y,” instead it’s “If I don’t get Z, I ain’t votin’ on nothin’.” And that’s the problem.

Let’s take one very pertinent example: the impeding tax increases on taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year. I don’t know a single Member of the House, Democratic or Republican, who has said on the record that he or she is in favor of raising taxes, starting next Tuesday, on taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year. Let’s suppose that you crafted a one-sentence bill reading as follows: “There shall be no income tax rate increases for the 2013 tax year on taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year.” Let’s suppose that you then administered sodium pentathol to every Member of Congress. Let’s suppose that you then had a vote on that bill. Obviously, it would pass the House by 435 to 0, or something close to that. Followed immediately by unanimous passage by the Senate, and the President’s signature.

(Here is another entertaining thought experiment: Just for fun, administer sodium pentathol to Rush Limbaugh, too. You’d have three hours of total silence on the airwaves.)

So anyway, in the case of “no income tax rate increases for everyone but the rich,” Grayson’s First Law of Legislating is sufficient. Everyone’s in favor of it, so everyone votes for it. Done.

It turns out that many, many components of the so-called “fiscal cliff” could be resolved quite simply by applying Grayson’s First Law of Legislating. I think it’s fair to say that a majority of the Members of Congress, right or wrong, are in favor of raising the debt ceiling before the government’s borrowing capacity is exhausted. I think it’s fair to say that a majority of the Members of Congress, right or wrong, are against a 27% cut in Medicare payments to doctors, starting next week. I think it’s fair to say that a majority of the Members of Congress, right or wrong, are against an 8% cut in air traffic control on Jan. 1. If you had single votes, up or down, on 90% of the components of the “fiscal cliff,” the outcome would not be in doubt.

And as for the remaining 10%, then you’ve got Grayson’s Second Law of Legislating to apply. I really, really don’t want to see unemployment insurance benefits cut off for millions of unemployed workers, seven days after Christmas. Maybe Rep. Skullinrear (R-Tea Party) doesn’t care. But Rep. Skullinrear really, really doesn’t want to see a 12% cut in defense spending from sequestration next week. I may not share Rep. Skullinrear’s morbid preoccupation with blowing stuff up. Nevertheless, his morbid preoccupation with blowing stuff up, together with my odd aversion to seeing families living in cars, gives the two of us something to talk about.

Mick Jagger, that eminent political scholar, had it all figured out more than forty years ago. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find – you just might find -- that you get what you need.

But in the House, that’s not what we’re seeing at all. Instead, we see what might be called the “Young John McCain” Law of Legislating. Senator John McCain has written that when he was a toddler, he sometimes got so furious that he held his breath until he passed out.

Now John Boehner is doing it. Boehner is holding his breath until America passes out.

It’s been ten months since the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board coined the term “fiscal cliff” when he called attention to the “massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases” that will go into effect less than a week from now. Ten months. But in all of that time, there has been nothing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives even remotely resembling a line-by-line vote on whether each one of those spending cuts and tax increases, individually, is good or bad. Just John Boehner holding his breath until the Democrats “agree” to extending tax breaks for the rich, and cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits.

It’s the worst case of legislation constipation that I’ve ever seen. But that’s what happens – what ought to happen -- when the folks in charge say over and over again, “I’m in favor of X, but I won’t vote for X, or even allow a vote for X, unless I get Y.”

We’re going to need some kind of patch to get through this. But I hope that the Powers That Be learn from this mistake. Slice it all into little pieces, and then vote each piece up or down. It works. And it’s a lot more practical than hoping that John Boehner, or Barack Obama, pulls a rabbit out of his hat.

Courage,

Alan Grayson

Oh, you can't always get what you want.
Oh, you can't always get what you want.
Oh, you can't always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes,
You just might find, you just might find,
You get what you need.

- The Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (1969).

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Comment Preferences

  •  But you know, the Fiscal Curb may just be the (8+ / 0-)

    laxative we need.

    And it may not be that bad in the long run.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:35:00 PM PST

    •  Ha! This has got to be one of the best diary... (11+ / 0-)

      titles evah! And the fact that it actually reflects the situation in D.C. to a tee is just icing on the cake. lol

      Regarding this:

      Now John Boehner is doing it. Boehner is holding his breath until America passes out.
      Boehner might be more useful if he is passed out.

      "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history." ~ Aldous Huxley

      by markthshark on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 07:05:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How much orange booze... (0+ / 0-)

        ... does it take to make Boner pass out?

        [With Boner's red eyes and red cheeks under his orange tan, I can only assume he's a boozer.]

        If that sodding sod [in cahoots with Obama] actually keeps cuts to Social Security and Medicare in any legislation, I'd hope they all get voted out of office - or kicked out of office.

        I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

        by NonnyO on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 12:02:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Questions: 1. are we saying that bills (6+ / 0-)

    should be smaller ?

    2. Can we get any jobs bills ?   OR... are the Republicans anti-jobs also ?

    3. Combo question:  Is there a carrot-and-stick approach for jobs and taxes that will work ?    

    Down here at the local level, there's not a SINGLE sign that Congress is doing a blessed thing.  Entrepreneurs seem to be the only thing that the US has going for it -- and those people are struggling.

    3b.  New companies have a hard time getting going, thanks to i) economic stagnation ii) homeland security guidelines  iii) health costs.

  •  hmmm (6+ / 0-)

    "I hope the Powers That Be learn from this mistake".

    Doubt that seriously when they obviously didn't learn from the last debt ceiling debacle and had loads of notice this was coming.

  •  One little problem (13+ / 0-)

    Republicans have 'principles' - the main one of which is doing nothing that Democrats would like even if it makes sense.

    The last thing the modern Republican party wants is to make government work. They don't believe in government in the first place - unless it's completely on their terms.

    Quite simply, they don't believe in the Constitution or the Rule of Law so much as they believe in Rule by Republicans. That's where it all begins and ends for them. They are the tail that wags the dog, and they will accept nothing else.

    Yeah, I know it sounds crazy - but the evidence is all around.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:47:15 PM PST

  •  Gerrymandered districts (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks to GOP control of many state legislatures means that we have many more years to put up with this bullshit.

  •  Maybe we need (6+ / 0-)

    to send the GOPs in Congress a big bottle of castor oil? Just to make a point....

    Good to see you, Mr. Grayson. Happy Holidays to you and yours. Hope to see a lot of you here this coming year. It's so great to have another real Progressive voice in Congress again and posting here, too.

    Thank your stars you're not that way/Turn your back and walk away/Don't even pause and ask them why/Turn around and say 'goodbye'/Just wish them well.....

    by Purple Priestess on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 07:04:07 PM PST

  •  Congress Constipation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chantedor

    I heard a kick into thine own butt seems to help.

    I hope the President will consider utilizing the following:

    Congress gets a decrease in pay until it's approval rate goes up. Their pay will return to original level each day it goes up

    I believe they are wasting our taxes by wasting their time in congress!  Until they are compromising, their pay should be reduced so we can save money.  

    This should reduce the motivation to use the filibuster too.

    This might force the congress to do the people's will instead of practicing politics.

    Hope the president make an executive order for the above.

    •  Congressional Pay isn't going to make a whit (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AllisonInSeattle

      of difference.  Congress critters are, at majority, millionaires who do not depend on that paycheck to make ends meet.

      One we fall off the cliff, paradoxically, Democratic bargaining position improves.

      I say we mint those platinum coins and let them topple us over.  They are at a 26 percent approval rating, which has now broken the unbreakable 27 percent of the nation that are straight up right wing nutters.

      "I watch Fox News for my comedy, and Comedy Central for my news." - Facebook Group

      by Sychotic1 on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 07:23:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Glad you're back in Congress, sir. (7+ / 0-)

    Even more glad that you're my Representative. Happy New Year.

  •  Conservatives Are About Conquest Not Governance. (7+ / 0-)

    This is a contest not a problem solving process for them.

    Conservatism strives in every venue to demonstrate that Democrats in that venue have zero value to donors and sponsors. They don't want to pass a bill that requires a Democratic vote if the can possibly help it. This is to starve reps like yourself (--er, like those on our side!) of potential support.

    So it's totally against their battle plan to follow governance logic like yours.

    And let's not forget, conservatives aren't confined to the Republican party.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 07:19:59 PM PST

    •  Scott Walker exposed the conservative mindset... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NonnyO

      ...in a prank phone call to who he believed was David Koch, although it was actually Ian Stewart:

      The mindset of Scott Walker is the mindset of every conservative in this country.

      Elizabeth Warren on the Senate Banking Committee is a BFD!

      by DownstateDemocrat on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 05:46:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This Might be a Laxative (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quill

    I heard a kick into thine own butt seems to help.

    I hope the President will consider utilizing the following:

    Congress gets a decrease in pay until it's approval rate goes up. Their pay will return to original level each day it goes up

    I believe they are wasting our taxes by wasting their time in congress!  Until they are compromising, their pay should be reduced so we can save money.  

    This should reduce the motivation to use the filibuster too.

    This might force the congress to do the people's will instead of practicing politics.

    Hope the president make an executive order for the above.

  •  know why kids hold breath till blue in the face? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chantedor, AllisonInSeattle

    Because their idiot parents give them what they want when they do - every damn time. In other words, what seems to us like a stupid self destructive behavior is actually an effective strategy for success. Bonus question: who should we blame for this behavior: the kid for doing what works or his horridly bad parents for rewarding him for doing it?

    The Republicans are just doing what works for them. Who do we blame for that?

    "I don't cry over milk spilled under bridges. I go make lemonade" - Bucky Katt

    by quill on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 10:52:09 PM PST

  •  Actions speak louder than words (0+ / 0-)
    I don’t know a single Member of the House, Democratic or Republican, who has said on the record that he or she is in favor of raising taxes, starting next Tuesday, on taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year.
    If a majority of Congress cared about protecting people living in households at or below median income levels ($50, 054 in 2011, not $250,000) it would be done.

    What the majority of politicians say "on the record" doesn't count for much. We all know they're trying to find a politically acceptable way to funnel more money to multi-millionaires and the defense industry with revenue from the majority of Americans who live on less than $250K, including the elderly and the disabled and the working poor. Call it "tax increases," call it "chained CPI," call it "protecting Social Security for our children and grandchildren," or whatever you like. That's what's happening now. It's obscene.

    “Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or erasing or lowering the deficit.” -- Ronald Reagan, 1984 debate with Walter Mondale

    by RJDixon74135 on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 11:50:29 PM PST

  •  Is worse than legislation diary!! (0+ / 0-)

    Doing too little is always worse than doing too much.

    I could not resist.

    Practice tolerance, kindness and charity.

    by LWelsch on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 03:37:07 AM PST

  •  The federal government borrowing its own (0+ / 0-)

    currency is ludicrous.
    Why do we issue currency to banks so we can borrow it back? Because banksters have gotten used to a steady trickle of guaranteed income. Why are state income streams being artificially constricted? To force them to issue bonds and a higher rate of dividend payments than U.S. Treasuries are providing. Why is there an interest in increasing the rate of unearned income streams?  Because tradition demands that it be higher than it now is.
    The cache of dollars is increasingly worthless, if it isn't increasing at a regular pace. The one percent have been spoiled by decades of effortlessly increasing their hoard.

    Why do members of Congress go along with this charade? Because their ability to ration the currency and crash the economy makes them feel important. They'd rather do that than carry out their obligations as public servants.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 05:39:57 AM PST

  •  I think it would not be a long stretch to compare (0+ / 0-)

    repubs to 2 year olds. But I have thought that since Bush was first elected. Normally 2 years old kids grow up.

    American Television is a vast sea of stupid. -xxdr zombiexx

    by glitterscale on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 06:46:40 AM PST

  •  Christ. (0+ / 0-)

    GRAYSON FOR PRESIDENT 2016!!!!!!!!
    He GETS IT!

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